Zeppelin raids, Gothas and 'Giants'

Britain's First Blitz - 1914 -1918

Ian Castle looks at the World War One air raids on Britain - the First Blitz

40 (3)

Norfolk, Suffolk, Hertfordshire, London, Surrey, Kent, Sussex

Casualties: 71 killed, 128 injured


Damage: £80,020

This was by far the most ambitious raid so far, with five Navy Zeppelins - L.13, L.14, L.15, L.16 and L.11 - intending to strike against London. The first four came inland over Norfolk more or less together with L.11 some distance behind. The raiders met a marked improvement in the gunnery defence of the capital following the recent appointment of Admiral Sir Percy Scott as London’s artillery commander.


Heinrich Mathy, commanding L.13, came inland at about 6.15pm. She passed Dereham, Newmarket and Hertford then, just after 9.00pm, a 13-pdr gun at Birchwood Farm, a mile north-west of Hatfield opened fire. In reply, L.13 dropped four high explosive (HE) bombs. One landed 70 yards from the gun but only damaged windows in nearby cottages. She continued on her course, passing around the west of London and crossing the Thames at Weybridge at 9.50pm. She headed west towards Guildford and came inder fire from a 1-pdr gun at the Chilworth gunpowder mill. L.13 passed over Guildford then turned back and dropped 12 HE bombs over the St. Catherine’s area. These damaged railway tracks, caused damage to a number of properties - particularly in Guildown Road and Chestnut Avenue - killed a swan on the River Wey and 17 chickens.


Mathy followed an easterly course away from Guildford, again passing over Chilworth, and came perilously close to colliding with L.14 between Bromley and Bickley at about 11.30pm.


At 11.45pm, guns at Blackheath and Honor Oak opened fire as L.13 approached Woolwich. She dropped three HE and 14 incendiary bombs on the artillery barracks, injuring four men, killing a horse and injuring nine others in a stable. Another nine incendiaries landed in the town then, over the Arsenal, L.13 dropped one HE and five incendiary bombs, injuring nine men, one of whom later died. A final HE bomb fell harmlessly on Plumstead marshes.


Anti-aircraft guns of various calibres engaged L.13 on a number of occasions before she passed out to sea near Dunwich, Suffolk, at about 2.00am.


Zeppelin L.14, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Alois Böcker, came inland near Bacton, Norfolk, around 6.30pm and eventually crossed the Thames estuary near the Isle of Sheppey. After meandering over Kent, she found herself over the army camp at Otterpool, close to Lympne, at about 9.15pm. She dropped four HE bombs: 8th Howitzer Brigade listed two killed and four injured and 5th Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery, listed 13 killed and seven injured. L.14 continued towards Westenhanger Camp, releasing two more bombs but these landed on the racecourse before she reached the camp.


Having realised he was near the south coast, Böcker turned north, dropping seven incendiary bombs at Frant at 10.30pm, without damage. Ten minutes later, over Tunbridge Wells, Böcker released three HE bombs, smashing a number of windows. L.14 approached East Croydon and at 11.20pm commenced dropping 17 HE bombs between Edridge Road and Howard Road. They killed three brothers in Beech House Road, three died in Oval Road, and three in Stretton Road. Fifteen others were injured.


L.14 almost collided with L.13 between Bromley and Bickley at about 11.30pm before crossing the Thames between Erith and Purfleet where she was engaged by anti-aircraft fire. Other guns also fired parting shots before she finally went out to sea north of Aldeburgh at about 1.45am.






13th/14th October 1915 (Part 1)


Croydon13-14 Oct 1915 (Beech House Rd) (2)

Bomb damage to 12 Beech House Road, East Croydon, where John Currie's three sons died: Gordon (age 15), Roy (14) and Brien (10)